Challenging stereotypes is always important, and the Cereals Event is getting behind International Women’s Day this week to disprove some common myths about females in farming.
International Women’s Day (8 March) is all about celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is Press For Progress – calling for progressive action to challenge stereotypes – and one might think that there is a great need to do that in the world of agriculture.
But while, traditionally, farming was very much a man’s world, the UK is leading the way in gender parity, with women comprising many of the key players in the industry. Here, the Cereals Event shines a light on just some of its female exhibitors and visitors who are making a difference in the arable sector.
Jane King, CEO at AHDB
What does your job involve?
I’m the CEO at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. My role is a leadership one – transforming the AHDB to deliver better value for money for the industry with outcomes on farm that improve profits, sustainability and productivity.
What is the best thing about your job?
It is a privilege to work with such a capable and passionate group of people and to work with the industry at this defining time. We face some challenges but also big opportunities, which will require a step change in what we do and how we work together.
What advice would you give to women looking to make a difference in the agriculture industry?
Go for it! The sky’s the limit as to the potential for women in the industry and now is your time as there are fewer barriers than in the past. We have some fantastic role models – the first woman president of the NFU in Minette Batters, the Grocery Code ombudsman in Christine Tacon, Tina Barsby at NIAB and Caroline Drummond at LEAF.
Women have always been the backbone of the rural economy in so many ways but now at last they are emerging into leadership roles for the whole industry. This is well overdue and we need to make the most of their talent and potential as we are entering a period of significant challenge and change.
Emma Foot – arable farmer, Dorset
What’s the best thing about your job?
I work at home on the family’s arable farm and the best thing about it is the unpredictable nature – no two days or years are the same. It makes you think and I like a challenge.
Can women do everything that men can do on the farm?
Yes. Although, some people say you can’t and that just makes you more determined to succeed. You can always get around things.
What advice would you give to young girls wanting to work in the farming industry?
If you’re determined, you can do it, just believe in yourself.
Martine Degremont, director at Comexposium
What is your job role?
My job is to organise the trade show SIMA and the Cereals Event to meet the needs of exhibitors and visitors; to understand the agri-sector, to gather all key players and bring innovation and great content to help producers better manage their farms.
What is the biggest struggle you’ve had to overcome in your job?
I have been working in the agri sector since 1989. My biggest struggle has been to try and have the greatest representation of equipment and services at the shows I organise, in order to meet the needs of all our visitors. We must have things on offer for small, medium and large farms and we have to show innovation for all farmers.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The most important thing is to be close to all agri leaders and key players in order to understand how the sector is working and how it will work in coming years. We must anticipate trends and consider all the key innovations in the future.
Laura Buckingham – arable inputs manager at Fram Farmers
What made you choose a career in agriculture?
I always wanted a career in agriculture, specifically as an agronomist. At the time I was at university, no one was really recruiting and it’s fair to say that the vast majority of agronomists were male.
Do you do get involved in the industry outside of work?
I’m also a STEM ambassador and am really passionate about empowering young girls and women to have the confidence to chase after their career aspirations with confidence.
Why do women have just as an important place in the industry as men?
We can bring a fresh perspective and different skills and attributes to a job. Having said that, when I started my career as an agronomist I was told by one of my very few female colleagues that I would have to work twice as hard to prove myself to clients. Perhaps that was true to an extent, but it has paid off.